Senerchia Post 74 was one out away from an upset of NEFL/Shields Post 43 on Sunday. Then came the rally, and then came the rain.
But after NEFL tied the game and the teams waited out a brief downpour, Senerchia went back to work and got its upset. With an infield hit and a sacrifice bunt setting the stage, Sam Boulanger scored from second on a throwing error as Senerchia knocked off first-place NEFL by a 7-6 score.
"This is big," said Senerchia manager C.J. Martin. "We came out and laid a goose egg yesterday. The night before, we had come out and played a great game against Cranston. We came out today and played a great game against a good team. It's a good sign. I think it's a step in the right direction."
Senerchia improved to 5-9 with the victory, while NEFL fell to 11-3. NEFL's previous losses were to Northern Division leaders Cumberland Post 14 and Collette Vacations, but the young Senerchia squad joined those teams on Sunday.
"It was just a bad day," said NEFL manager Dave McGuirl. "Bottom line is we walked a lot of batters early in the game and they got the hits to score them. They walked a lot too and we didn't get the hits. That's what it came down to."
The walks were the story of the day in the early going. NEFL starter Kyle Fitzsimmons only allowed four hits in six innings but he struggled to find the strike zone at times.
Two walks in the second and an RBI single by P.J. Murray led to Senerchia's first run.
Then in the third, Boulanger and Matt Murphy walked before Rich Bacon laced a two-run double to the gap in left-center. Bacon then came around on two wild pitches, Max Heintzelman walked and Jarek Krajewski scored him with a double.
"We've been talking a lot about their approaches at the plate – what to do when you're leading off an inning, what to do when there's a runner on second base, what to do in any given count," Martin said. "We've talked about that a lot, and the approaches today were good. The biggest thing is we executed when we needed to. We got the bunts down when we needed to, we moved guys over and we got guys in when we needed to."
Senerchia added another run in the fifth when Rob Henry walked, took second on a wild pitch moved to third on a groundout and scored on another wild pitch.
Five of the six runners who scored for Senerchia had reached base on walks.
"Fitzy is inconsistent," McGuirl said. "He loses it and then he gets it. It's like a roller coaster with him sometimes."
Fitzsimmons settled down enough to keep NEFL in the game and with Senerchia's pitchers having struggles of their own, the game was well within reach. After Nick Bourdeau tossed three scoreless innings, Krajewski came on in the fourth, walked two batters and hit another and left without recording an out. C.J. Maderios relieved him and walked in a run before allowing another to score on a groundout.
Maderios buckled down though and struck out Colin Stamps with two on to end the inning. Maderios walked two more in the fifth but got out of the jam with two strikeouts and a ground ball to shortstop.
"I think it would make everybody's blood pressure a little lower if he was throwing strikes right off the bat," Martin said. "But it's the mark of a good young pitcher. He might struggle a little bit, but he comes back and bears down when he needs to. He did a heck of a job keeping us in it. That's what we needed."
In the seventh, though, NEFL finally broke through. Don McGuirl drew a leadoff walk, and after Zach Blanchard popped out, Branden Hoxsie legged out an infield hit. Maderios got Nick McGuirl to ground out, but needing just one out to finish it off, he walked T.J. Boyajian.
Nick Savage then roped a double down the left-field line that cleared the bases and made it a 6-5 game. Zach Olink followed with a single to score Savage with the tying run.
Senerchia got out of the inning with the game still tied, but NEFL had the momentum – and it had ace Dylan Cummiskey coming on in relief.
But Senerchia was undeterred. Boulanger reached on an infield single to start the inning before the teams were forced to the dugouts for a brief rain delay. When play resumed, Henry moved Boulanger to second with a sacrifice bunt and Murphy hit a slow roller to shortstop. Don McGuirl charged and scooped the ball but his throw sailed high, allowing Boulanger to score.
"It wasn't our best day," Dave McGuirl said. "I feel like we gave one away, but take nothing away from them. They played hard. They're a good young team."
NEFL and Senerchia are now both headed to Saratoga, New York for the Coopers Cave Tournament, which features 18 teams from around the Northeast. Ten teams are eliminated after pool play, and McGuirl is hoping NEFL can be one of the teams that moves on.
Martin is hoping Senerchia can continue to deliver good performances against good competition.
"We're hoping we can continue playing like this," Martin said. "NEFL is going up there and so is the East Providence team. We know there's going to be good competition throughout the tournament. Hopefully, we'll play well against good competition."
When the teams return to Rhode Island, they'll play each other again on July 12 at 5:30 p.m.